UVU softball: Utah Valley closes out WAC play with home series vs. NM State
A busy, seven-game week winds to a close this weekend when Utah Valley University hosts New Mexico State in the final WAC series of the season for both teams. The three-game set begins with a doubleheader at noon MT on Friday and finishes with a single game Saturday, also at noon.
The Wolverines (14-34, 5-7 WAC) enter the week in a three way tie for third in the WAC standings but currently own the four-seed at the five-team WAC Tournament by virtue of their .292 winning percentage. Also at 5-7 in WAC play are Seattle U and Kansas City - both of which won home series against UVU by a two-games-to-one margin. Meanwhile, NM State (26-21, 8-4 WAC) is in second place in the standings after surrendering the top spot it has held for most of the season to Grand Canyon following an Antelope sweep of the Aggies last weekend.
NM State will need to sweep the Wolverines and hope for a Seattle U sweep of Grand Canyon in order to win the outright WAC regular season championship. At 1-3 on the week, UVU is coming off a home doubleheader split with Southern Utah on Wednesday. The Wolverines earned a 5-3 victory in game one, tying a school record with four home runs in each contest, each from a different player. All four were solo shots, helping UVU pick up its first win against an in-state opponent this season.
Freshman Hailey Kofler, who delivered the go-ahead home run Wednesday, continues to lead Utah Valley in batting with a .303 average. She has six home runs during her rookie season. Leading the team in big flies is senior Amanda Robinson with eight. She has hit seven in the month of April, including five in her last six games. Robinson missed Wednesday's games due to illness but clubbed homers in both games of a Monday doubleheader at Utah.
The Aggies come into Orem looking to snap a five-game losing streak. Last weekend's sweep to Grand Canyon coupled with two losses to No. 10 Arizona in a twinbill Wednesday comprise the recent skid. Their last win came on April 12 when they broke a WAC record with 17 first-inning runs on their way to a 17-2 win to complete a sweep of Bakersfield.
New Mexico State leads the conference in batting with a .313 average and is second in pitching, holding a combined 4.01 ERA. The WAC's top-two hitters also belong to the Aggies in juniors Staci Rodriguez and Lacey Rother. An outfielder, Rodriguez is hitting .409 on the year with 39 RBIs and a team-leading 13 home runs. Rother, a catcher, is batting .402 with 34 RBIs and eight home runs. Leading the team in RBIs is sophomore Fiana Finau with 40.
This weekend marks the first meeting between the two programs since 2008. The Wolverines are 0-3 all-time against NM State.
As the season's final home game, Saturday's single game stands as Senior Day for UVU softball. In a pregame ceremony, the Wolverines will honor the careers of their four seniors: infielder Debra Lovell, outfielder and pitcher Dara Rahm, first baseman and catcher Robinson, and pitcher Josi Summers.
Utah Valley closes out the 2014 season with four more non-conference games over the next two weeks. The Wolverines travel to Eugene to face No. 1 Oregon on Tuesday, Apr. 29, before rounding out the year with a doubleheader at BYU on May 6. The 2014 WAC Tournament, hosted by Seattle U, gets underway on May 8.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.